Pascha   4 comments

This week’s blog hop topic is, appropriately, Easter.

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Growing up in the very secular state of Alaska in an unchurched family, I don’t have a lot of family traditions associated with Easter. So when I look at Easter it is from an adult’s perspective. My husband was raised in a Catholic home (Boston Irish Catholic), so he came with traditions that changed when he became a born-again Christian. Not too surprisingly, we have had to examine Easter (and other church holidays) in light of our salvation.

Contrary to popular belief, the Emperor Constantine did not have a whole lot to do with Easter. There was a 19th century book Two Babylons: Papal Worship Proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and his Wife by a virulent anti-Catholic by the name of Bishop Alexander Hislop that is the source of many of the common allegations of pagan influences in early Christianity. Hislop’s book seems really authoritative, until you check out the source documents for his footnotes and realize he’s making a lot of vague “This seems similar” arguments. I’m not focused on that. Look for The Babylon Connection by Ralph Woodrow for a critical analysis of Hislop’s book.

Image result for image of lords supperConstantine’s relationship with Easter (which was called Pascha in his time) was pretty brief and tenuous. He convened and opened the Council of Nicaea and then … well, he wasn’t involved in the actual council itself. Christian bishops from around the Christian realm at the time ran the conference and were the ones who made the major decisions. Constantine may have provided lodging and snacks. It’s actually pretty likely that Constantine himself was not a Christian in  the Biblical sense. He saw Christianity as a means of uniting his empire and he really didn’t care what the council produced so long as the bishops came to some agreement and issued some sort of proclamation to assure Christian unity. In fact, Constantine was not baptized until he was on his death bed and then he was baptized by his cousin, an Arian bishop who denied the dual nature of Jesus.

Like many issues of the early churches, Easter existed in glorious anarchy (I definitely would have approved). Some churches celebrated “Pascha” on a Sunday while some churches in Asia Minor celebrated Passover in the Jewish manner, on the first full moon of spring, regardless of the day of the week. This bothered the control freaks among the bishops, so the Council of Nicaea resolved this issue by establishing a common Sunday celebration of Easter and the eastern churches apparently agreed to adopt this custom.

The cultural baggage of Easter eggs and rabbits are indeed fertility symbols that worked their way into Christianity by way of folklore customs associated with pagan seasonal observances.  They came from Germanic and Celtic traditions and not Babylon, but either way I don’t think they have a place in church celebrations and I’ve never gone to a church where these were a big deal. Easter egg hunts aside, our worship is focused on the Bible. Even the name “Easter” appears to have come from Celtic Christians … the first mention of “Easter” was by St. Bede, who recorded that the British Celt called the holiday this and that he thought it was related to one of their former pagan holidays celebrated around the same time. And that’s the history.

Pascha (otherwise known as Easter) is the feast of the Lord’s resurrection and it is THE most ancient observance in Christianity. In non-English speaking Christian cultures outside of Europe, the holiday of Easter is called by some variation of Pascha, which is the New Testament Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word pesach, meaning Passover. This is consistent with ancient Christian practice. The Lord’s Supper, which in my church is observed on Good Friday, was the only ritual the early church seems to have celebrated regularly. Ignatius, writing in the late-1st century or early-2nd century identified all Sunday worship as very similar to a Pascha celebration. Early Christians commemorated the Lord’s resurrection weekly with the Lord’s supper, in keeping with Paul’s teachings.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes1 Corinthians 11:23-26

For us at University Baptist Church, the Lord’s Supper is observed about quarterly. We could do it weekly, but there is a strong feeling that weekly observance makes it into a rote ritual rather than something we think about and prepare for. Although my church does not observe Lent, I do sort of. Brad does. He usually restarts his workout and stops drinking sodas in preparation for the summer’s active season. I use the time to consider what my sins might have been and who might have a grievance against me for my past behavior. If I’ve had some time, I will attempt to make amends. When I approach the Lord’s Supper, I do not want to be unworthy, but the fact is any baptized person who claims to be a Christian can take the Lord’s Supper at my church. Nobody asks for proof that you are a Christian or that you’ve been baptized. We’re on the honor system.

Image result for image of lords supperFor me, this is a very spiritual time, the week leading up to Easter/Pascha. I spend time with God in seeking His forgiveness and guidance. And when I come to the Lord’s Supper service, I know that I’ve at least been honest with myself about my failings before God. We serve these little crackers of unleavened bread, though I have been to a church where the pastor (who liked to cook) would make unleavened bread. The unleavened bread is accompanied by grape juice, which gets around the whole sobriety issue for Brad (yet another reason he’s no longer a Catholic — and, yes, we know there are stigmatized ways around the Catholic wine). When we eat the bread, I try to remain focused on Jesus on the cross, His sacrifice for me. There have been times when I’ve heard the sound of hammers in my head. I don’t cry easily, but there have been times when I’ve so affected by His willing sacrifice on my behalf that I have wept. When we drink the juice, I try to imagine the weight of sin lifted from me by His forgiveness.

Good Friday service is usually a time for reflection and quietly filing out to go home. We remember that WE killed Jesus. The angel of death may be passing over us, but not because we deserve forgiveness, but because Jesus voluntarily gave His life to take on our sin. It’s His blood on the doorpost.

And then everyone shows up in bright florals on Resurrection Sunday, celebrating that He is risen and we are forgiven. This is appropriate because Jesus is no longer on the cross. He has risen and we should not continue to mourn by His grave.

His is risen! Rejoice.

Posted March 28, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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4 responses to “Pascha

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  1. Reblogged this on aurorawatcherak.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very nice explanation of Easter Sunday Lela. Thank you.

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  3. Charlemagne, I think is who you are looking for. He arranged the bible, quite literally.

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    • Not sure what you mean, Kelly. Charlemagne’s tribe were pretty much the only Catholics in the European Celtic region at the time he came to power and he definitely financed the expansion of Catholic churches throughout France and parts of Germany and that would have also expanded the distribution of the Bible.

      But in terms of the orders of the books, that existed before Charlemagne’s time. The Old Testament follows the ancient rabbinical order dating back before the time of Christ.

      The New Testament was complete by AD 100 and in circulation in at least a partial codex by the mid-2nd century. We know this because the early church fathers were quoting from it in the mid-2nd century.

      The order of the books has often changed, though the different arrangers often grouped the histories (the Gospels and Acts) first, puts the epistles after and Revelation always at the end. Since it wasn’t written as a single monolithic book, it doesn’t really matter. We have several versions of the Bible at home and one of them arranges the books in the order in which they were written.

      A great book to read on the reliability of the Bible the New Testament which touches on its history is Reinventing Jesus written by three textual critics http://www.amazon.com/Reinventing-Jesus-J-Ed-Komoszewski-ebook/dp/B001QOGJXQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1459271295&sr=1-1&keywords=reinventing+jesus.

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